Updated: Dec 16, 2019
When preparing for my upcoming trip, I pulled out my travel gears once again and pondered over which items I will probably need on the trip. While some items are optional, there are those that I will definitely bring along on all trips. They are my tried-and-tested "travel kits" and almost mandatory to bring along. I am sharing them here.
The items in my travel kits are rather common in our daily life but they can be so insignificant that few people will think of bringing them when packing for trips. Moreover, these items are extremely light and small — can't even feel their weight and won't take up much space in the backpack.
1. Sleeping Kit
It is important to have good sleeps. When travelling, you will not be sleeping in your own bedroom and have no control over noise factors that can interrupt your sleeps. Noisy pubs nearby, rowdy neighbours, loud vehicles passing by, etc, are all noisemakers that you may encounter when staying in any accommodations — including luxury hotels.
Instead of taking the chance and be awaken from your sweet dreams, put on ear plugs when sleeping. A good pair of ear plugs can reduce most noise levels but the most blaring sounds like fire alarm (you must be able to hear it for your safety). Ear plugs are also handy when travelling in buses, trains and flights to reduce noises, especially talkative passengers and crying babies.
Also, you may not want to turn off one of the room lights when sleeping, so you can find the way to the washroom when awoken in the middle of the night (you are not in your own bedroom after all). But the light that is left on may make it difficult for you to go into sleep. Use an eye shade to block out the lights.
Notice that my eye shade resembles a mask? I did used it as a mask once when travelling on a dusty road in Cambodia, it was a last-minute resort to avoid breathing in dusts. And I have included it as my dual-purpose "shade-mask" ever since. But, that is for last resort, it is still safer to get a proper dust mask or approved mask for fine dust particles if you know you will be needing it beforehand.
2. Waterproofing Kit
Ever carry shower gels in your luggage but they spilled all over your belongings? Do you know that some plastic bottles are not designed to withstand high air pressures when in flight? And you are not supposed to fill the bottles to their brims with gels to prevent spillage when under pressure?
Ever get caught in sudden downpours and everything on you are drenched? Or carry a bottle of drinking water in your backpack and it leaked? Getting your passport, money notes, or other travel documents wet is the last thing you will ever want to happen. You will need to spend a day to sunbathe the drenched papers before you can use them, and spoiling your travel plan — that happened to me once in China.
The easiest way to waterproof small things is to use resealable plastic bags. They can keep spilled gels from getting out and stop water from getting to important papers or items in your luggage that must not be wet.
And do reuse disposable plastic bags to reduce plastic wastes in the environment. Or get some higher grades one that are not easily torn. I actually reused worn out plastic bags, which is no longer waterproof, to keep small items neatly packed.
3. Repair Kit
It is common for travellers to tear a pants or shirt, or drop a button, when travelling or hiking in rough terrains. And you will probably not throw the clothes away just because of a small defect. So, packing a mini sewing kit in the luggage can come in handy.
Apart from clothing, straps of backpack or anything that can be sewed, can also be fixed with a sewing kit. The photo (below) shows a half-torn bag strap being fixed during my last trip in China.
Warning: It is hazardous to use safety pins as quick fixes on clothes that are worn on the body or on backpack carried on your back. If a safety pin gets unhooked unintentionally, it can cause a serious body injury.
4. Medical Kit
Everyone knows what plasters are used for, but how many travellers really carry them on trips? I seldom meet travellers who have plasters on them. Most travellers believe that it is easy to buy a pack when the need arises.
Plasters are important for emergency first-aid use. When you get a cut in an alien environment, it is crucial to wash the wound (with antiseptics if available) and close it up with a plaster as soon as possible. This is to prevent the wound from being infected by bacteria — especially the often-fatal flesh-eating virus known as necrotizing fasciitis. There had been a number of such reported cases.
You may not want to carry a first-aid kit around, but plasters with anti-bacteria wipes are bare minimum. It is a risk for wounds to be left opened, no matter how small the cut is, while seeking for medical aid.
Apart from first-aid uses, plasters can also be used as tapes (especially expired plasters) to bind small things together. It can come in handy when a tape, rubber band or Velcro-strip, is not available when on the move. Some plasters' adhesive property is actually much stronger than tapes, except a little shorter. Waterproof plasters can also be used to stop water leakage from leaky containers.
Using plaster (as tape) to secure unused detergent powder (above) is better than using a rubber band.
5. Eating Kit
Packing personal eating utensils, such as chopsticks, a fork or a spoon, is becoming a trend these days. The main reason being health hazards from unclean utensils in some eating places and also the use of inappropriate chemicals to treat disposable utensils. Some travellers avoid using disposable utensils as they are not environment friendly. Some hotels provide instant cup noodles in rooms but no eating utensils except tea spoons for stirring coffee.
A personal eating utensil set can be handy in situations that call for it. And there is no need to specially buy a set for travel use, just get them from your own kitchen.
My personal utensil set consists of a pair of chopsticks and a plastic fork, as it is lighter than metal. For short trips with no check-in baggage, a plastic fork will have no issue being carried on board flights in hand-carries, whereas metallic utensils will often be confiscated.
6. Extra "Hand"
Packing a couple of strings or cords (salvaged from drawstring bags) with a couple of carabiners is a must for me. They are my extra "hand" to help me carry my things when my backpack is full and when I want to keep my hands free.
They are handy as laundry line for drying a couple of clothes in the room, or tie-up a (cold) mineral water bottle and sling it across the body without having to put it in the backpack in case it wets other things. You can tie anything that you don't want to put in the backpack, such as camera tripod, wet umbrella, bag of shopped items, etc., and sling it across the body when on the move, keeping the hands free.